Artist: Kunisada Utagawa (1786-1865)
TItle: 43. Kuwana, Sailor Tokuzo
Series: The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido
Publisher: Izutsu-ya Shokichi
Dimensions: 25 x 36.2 cm
During the Edo period (c.1603-1868), a series of post stations were formed along the Tokaido, a road connecting the former capital of Kyoto with the new capital of Edo. From government officials to pilgrims, these post stations offered a place of repose for those travelling on the expansive road. The post station of Kuwana, in what is now Mie prefecture, was particularly well traveled. Close to Ise Bay, the station welcomed travellers from both land and sea who wished to pass through to the capital or visit Ise Shrine, Japan’s most sacred place of worship. Kunisada playfully combines the name of the station with a portrait of the legendary sailor Kuwanaya Tokozo, who’s famous unlucky streak was tested when he set out to sea on the last day of the year. a purportedly ill-omened act. He soon encounters a giant sea monster known as an Umebozu. Despite his bad luck, he manages to sail away unscathed. The contrast between delicate and bold lines, as well as the subtle detail such as the rendering of Tokozo’s ear visible through thinner stands of hair, make this portrait particularly appealing.